Historical Facts and Contrived Fiction
By Elaine Faber
When mixing fictional characters with historical times or events, your character can be part of the action, but be careful to keep historical events accurate. For example: Your fictional character might live down the street from Benjamin Franklin, and one stormy night old Ben knocks on your character’s door and wants to borrow a kite. Or imagine that your protagonist is a high school teacher of Advanced Cooking and Homemaking 101. One of her students might be young Julia Child. In our examples, our imaginary character doesn’t discover electricity, nor does the teacher write best-selling cook books, but our fictional characters can be involved with the actual historical event in some small way that doesn’t change history. The borrowed kite and cooking classes could have happened the way I explained, right? Maybe?
When mixing historical facts into a fiction novel, the author must be aware of laws, copyright rules and infringements on privacy. If the book cover uses pictures of certain landmarks or branded products, i.e., written permission or purchased photos are required, such as available at Shutterstock or I-Stock. You cannot use the name or location of a public place, such as the Sacramento King’s Arco Arena without written permission. (Who knew?) If your character is going to interact with historical events or people, my advice is to stick with folks dead long enough who will not complain about using their names! And never besmirch or discredit a famous, historical or real person, either dead or alive. The dead could come back to haunt you and the live ones may sue for defamation of character!
My WWII humorous Mrs. Odboddy mystery/adventure stories take place in a fictional small town near the California coastline in 1942-43. Agnes is an eccentric elderly woman who fights the war from the home front. She is determined to thwart conspiracies and expose Nazi spies in her small town…or so she believes. Because her notions are usually wrong, she is often in trouble with her neighbors and her granddaughter, Katherine. However, Agnes is not deterred from “doing her duty” and exposing evil where she finds it. Agnes experiences dial telephones, driving a 1930 Model A Ford, lighting her oven with a match, baking a pie from scratch, planting a victory garden, the inconvenience of rationing, volunteering on the coast watch and knitting socks for the troops. In a later novel she deals with purchasing and selling War Bonds.
In Mrs. Odboddy, Undercover Courier, Agnes travels across country by train to Washington DC to join Mrs. Roosevelt on her Pacific Island tour (Why not?). Agnes is asked to hand-carry a package to President Roosevelt. She is convinced the package contains secret war documents! (Could happen) She expects Nazi agents will attempt to steal her package (It’s possible).
As fictional Agnes weaves her silly self through the novels, she’s exposed to actual historical events, but changes nothing. Mrs. Odboddy, Undercover Courier will amaze and amuse all the way from California to Washington, D.C. Expect not only a laugh, but new insights about the long lost elegance of cross country travel by train. Hope you’ll buy one of my books. Happy reading.
Excerpt – Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier
Agnes hurried down the aisle before anyone else could beat her to the washroom. After brushing her teeth, washing her face, and smearing cold cream across her face, Agnes glanced into the mirror. She chuckled, noting that her white face now resembled a clown. Mid-chuckle, her smile faded. My purse! I left it in my berth, unattended, with the secret documents inside!
Agnes threw open the door and plunged down the aisle, cold cream smeared over her face. What had she done? Oh, Lord above. Protect this idiot from my foolish ways.
The empty berth shrieked its condemnation at her carelessness and neglect. Oh, dear God! Her purse was nowhere in sight.
Oh, nooooo! Where was the porter who was supposed to be on guard, watching their belongings?
Agnes raced toward the far end of the car and found the porter tipped back, his chair balanced against the wall, sound asleep, his head lolled to the side.
“Porter! Wake up!”
The young man jerked, the legs of his chair slamming to the floor. He jumped to his feet, his eyes blinking. “Yes, ma’am?” He straightened his back and touched his cap, his eyes scanning wildly from left to right. As he came to full wakefulness, he peered at Agnes, her cold-creamed face contorted in rage. His eyes looked like black marbles floating in pools of milk. He stepped back, his trembling hands outstretched. “I’s sorry. I won’t do it again!”
What’s wrong with him? “Porter! Did you see someone getting into my berth? I’m the second one from the end.” She pointed down the aisle.
The porter’s face turned several shades lighter. “No, ma’am. Sorry ma’am. I…I… I’m afraid I fell asleep.” He hung his head. “Are you going to tell my boss?” He lifted his head. “Is you a ghost?”
Agnes reached up and touched her cheek. “Oh, my goodness!” I didn’t even wash my face. No wonder I scared the living daylights out of him. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped at her cheeks. “I left the bathroom in such a hurry… But, then I discovered my purse missing from my berth!” Her heart raced as she uttered the dreadful words. And vanity clouded my good judgment! I’m such a fool.
His mouth trembled again. Was he more concerned about her purse or getting caught sleeping on the job? “Missing? You’re sure you didn’t misplace it?” He hurried down the aisle toward her berth.
Agnes followed on his heels.
The porter yanked back Agnes’s curtain and glanced around her bed. Only the Bible lay on her pillow–the purse was gone.
The porter slid the suitcases from side to side and tossed the pillow to the other end of the bed. “Have you checked in your suitcase?”
“Don’t you think I’d remember if I put it in my suitcase?” Agnes huffed. What kind of an idiot does he think I am? On the other hand, what kind of an idiot was she to leave her purse sitting on the bed with secret documents inside and run around the train with cold cream smeared on her face? Chill bumps raced up her arms as the realization of the loss hit home. She had failed the President of the United States of America on the first day out the door. She blinked to hold back tears as the porter rifled through both of her suitcases.
“Can you describe it, ma’am? What was inside?”
Agnes shrugged. “It was black…um…well, never mind what it contained. It had my wallet and my money and…and…my train ticket and passport.” Tears trickled down her cheeks.
“I’ll question the passengers before I make a report to the conductor.” The porter’s face contorted again. Weren’t they two of a kind? Both brought low by their own carelessness.
“I’ll finish up in the washroom while you look.”
The porter nodded and hurried off, leaving Agnes to return to her interrupted ablutions.
Agnes washed the cold cream from her face and stared into the washroom mirror. The wrinkles in her forehead had deepened over the past few minutes and the sparkle that folks said she carried in her eyes seemed to have abandoned ship.
Agnes straightened her shoulders and forced a smile. She gave her hair a final pat and stepped out the washroom door, climbed into her bunk and pulled the curtain. She laid her head back on the pillow, clutched the Bible to her chest and began to pray.
About The Author :
Elaine is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inspire Christian Writers and Cat Writers Association. She lives in Northern California with her husband and four house cats (the inspiration for her three humorous cozy cat mysteries, Black Cat’s Legacy, Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, and Black Cat and the Accidental Angel).
Mrs. Odboddy’s character is based in no way on Elaine’s quirky personality. Two more Mrs. Odboddy adventures will publish in the near future. Many of Elaine’s short stories have appeared in magazines and multiple anthologies.Amazon B&N
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